Friday, March 7, 2014

Tree & Wood: NHS & Competition for the same Consultants

In Bad Medicine, Dr No caused a heated debate about General Practice:

Today’s GPs tend to be shy of their trade roots, not to mention more than a little miffed at the general presumption that they are country cousins to the hospital’s specialists. And so, over recent decades, they have followed the classical route to professionalisation, or, as our friends in the sociology line call it, ‘occupational closure’: defining a unique core body of knowledge gained by training (the vocational training scheme for general practice), the establishment of entry qualifications and lists of accredited registered practitioners (the MRCGP, and the GMC’s GP Register and locally held ‘Performers Lists’) – prior to these developments, any doctor could work as a GP – and the setting up of a professional association – the Royal College of GPs. By these steps, a line in the medical sand has been drawn, demarcating general practitioners from other medical practitioners.

There is a very discrete attempt to change the name of A&E to ED.

Wow! Do people never learn from history?

No!!! NHS and A&E. Original please   

So if politicians have not been so interfering and allow us doctors, nurses and patients to make things work together we may indeed have a better NHS. All the analysis on the reform is clear about one thing: someone is going to make money and that means less money for actual health care.

©2012 Am Ang Zhang 

It is amazing that the debate on the NHS Reform continues and the emphasis is on choice and competition that will in turn improve quality!


"But, excuse me, did I not just see you at the NHS Clinic?"

The above is still the most common exchange when one gets persuaded to see a consultant at a Private Clinic on the belief that you might get your hip earlier and wait, "better" treatment.

But private clinics and hospitals need to make a profit and that means less money for treating patients when we started sending NHS patients to private clinics. 

Please Mr SoS, explain to me the good of the AQP of your new world order!

In the new world order of our NHS, private provider (AQP)for commercial  reasons need not let the public have access to information about their activities etc, and even the doctors they provide.

Just look at one of the OOH, one doctor for 950,000 population!  As they say, be very afraid.

Even as we like our NHS as much as our woods: looks like private providers for public services is in the PM's mind. Sometimes it is public (taxpayer) money for private failures: catastrophic failures when it is someone's life.

Wait, most of the time they are the same doctors so introducing competition is not going to improve anything.

Choice? Really!!!

Anyone who cared to Google Private Health Insurers will find that many conditions are excluded from their "comprehensive" Health Care. The full list is too long and I might be infringing their copyrights. See if dialysis and intensive care treatment are covered. What kind of "comprehensive" Health Care is it to exclude both.

Check out the John Lewis Hospital, sorry Circle. Same story: exclude baby intensive care, dialysis and mental health.  

Just try not to get this funny E. Coli. As when you need dialysis you may have to choose NHS. But then, you might be so ill and unconscious.....mmm interesting thought. How does one choose when very unwell? 

According to the NAO:
In 2009 the total value of the market for PH(Private Healthcare) in the UK was estimated at just over £5.8 billion. Private hospitals and clinics account for the largest part of the overall PH market, generating an estimated £3.75 billion in revenue during 2009. Fees to surgeons, anaesthetists and physicians generated an estimated £1.6 billion in 2009.

The total number of UK citizens with Private Insurance is estimated to be around 90,000. Not millions!!!

It is not difficult to work out what good value the NHS has always been.

The NHS was not perfect, far from it and yet successive attempts at fixing it has produce the opposite effect: it needs more fixing.
If you read that line again from the NAO report, it was clear where the problem was: fees to surgeons, anaesthetists and physicians!!!
Yes, that was the main recipient of Private Health income.

To become a Consultant in the NHS used to be prestigious and even those aiming to doing mainly private work will have to wait till they achieve Consultant status in the NHS.

The NHS for all its sins tried to keep every consultant as close to the MAYO ideal by insisting on the same pay-scale.

Several levels of Distinction Awards were used to keep some professors and top consultants happy. Later the name of the Awards was changed and yet it was still the same soup.

If Consultants were prepared to give up one session of pay, then there is no limit as to the private work they can take on. It was a safe way to start your private work and you keep the rather nice NHS pension.
What is generally not talked about is that you keep one foot in your NHS hospital and one in your private one.

So far so good and yet this is where the problem starts.

It does not need a genius to work out that people worry about their health and do not want to wait for a suspicious lump to stay in their body too long. They will pay. We need not even mention the manipulation of waiting lists, etc. Then big companies realise that they can attract staff by offering Health Insurance and the rest is as they say history.

Then the rules changed and every consultant can do a maximum of 10% of their NHS pay in private work without having to give up anything. Some hospitals even allow you to use their facilities for a small fee.
Why not, more private patient means less expenditure for the NHS.

Private Insurers discovered that too and they started offering a small fee if you can wait for your operation at your free NHS hospital.

There has never been any control of Health Insurers and I suspect it was not even because they have a strong lobby: just the feeling that the NHS was for everybody so no one could be excluded.

But Health Insurers are cleverer, they exclude chronic conditions, many psychiatric ones belong to that group and often they will exclude after a while.

Cherry picking without extra labour.
Cherry picking soon©2007 Am Ang Zhang 

So, indeed it was a clever move by the present government to simply hand over a portion of money to the GPs and say: get on with it, the best price or better still, why not treat them yourself. You are all doctors, forgetting one of their own just had neurosurgery done at Queen Square.
Until, now Consultants are to be excluded from the consortia. Most are not making too much noise for a very good reason.

There just are not enough of us Consultants and the reform is really COVERT rationing by any other name.

How else could the government continue to claim that competition will improve standard and bring down cost.

Private or NHS, they are the same Surgeons, Anesthetists and  Physicians. 

Attempts to change our beloved NHS may indeed be met with the same failure experienced by some other well known brands, sometimes at great cost.

Perhaps politicians can learn from this: you can say all the bad things about the NHS and you can quote how badly we are doing but we still love our NHS for all its short comings.

Just look at the faith we have in our A&E departments to the point that Roy Lilly suggested:

inner city solution; close P'care and put GPs in A&E just like Detroit

There is even argument that GPs cannot do A&E work and A&E doctors cannot do GP work. What has gone wrong with medical training?

There is a very discrete attempt to change the name of A&E to ED.

Wow! Do people never learn from history?

No!!! NHS and A&E. Original please   

So if politicians have not been so interfering and allow us doctors, nurses and patients to make things work together we may indeed have a better NHS. All the analysis on the reform is clear about one thing: someone is going to make money and that means less money for actual health care.

I have maintained for some time that:

Most people in well paid jobs (including those at the GMC) have health insurance. GPs have traditionally been gatekeepers and asked for specialist help when needed. If we are honest about private insurance it is not about Primary Care, that most of us have quick access to; it is about Specialist Care, from IVF to Caesarian Section ( and there are no Nurse Specialists doing that yet), from Appendectomy to Colonic Cancer treatment (and Bare Foot doctors in the Mao era cannot do the latter either), from keyhole knee work for Cricketers to full hip-replacements, from Stents to Heart Transplants, from Anorexia Nervosa to Schizophrenia, from Trigeminal Neuralgia to Multifocal Glioma, from prostate cancer to kidney transplant and I could go on and on. China realised in 1986 you need well trained Specialists to do those. We do not seem to learn from the mistakes of others.

So do you really think that hospitals are not necessary, or not necessary for the average citizen of England. Soon they will be sold and it will be costly to buy them back.

What about medical training? If these hospitals are sold, who pays?

And watch out, someone, your parent, your spouse, your child and even your MP may need a Hospital Consultant one day. 

It is so simple: Private Providers need to make a profit so there is going to be less money for patient care, not more.

Mark Porter: Chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee.
NHS services in some parts of England could be "destabilised" by private firms taking advantage ……….to win contracts for patients with easy-to-treat conditions. This could lead to some hospitals no longer offering a full range of services and ultimately having to close.

The worst-hit patients would include those with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart failure, Porter added. They would have to travel longer distances for treatment.

The government is taking unnecessary risks by imposing market measures on the NHS, as competitive healthcare cannot deliver high quality treatment to everyone.

The NHS could become "a provider of last resort" for patients whose illnesses are of no interest to private firms, added Porter. Once independent providers have signed contracts with the consortiums of GPs they could deny care to patients who would be costly to treat, Porter warned.

No comments: